New Border Wall in Nogales: Metal, Murals, & Music

Holding Hands through a Hole in the Old Wall

Since last week, the old wall dividing the city of Nogales on the border between Arizona, USA and Sonora, Mexico is being replaced by a new one. The US government is tearing down 2.8 miles of old metal fence and building a higher, deeper fence of metal and cement posts at a cost of $11 million.

“There have always been flows of people, goods, money, and ideas back and for across the border,” says Jeanette Pazos, the program coordinator at HEPAC (Home of Hope and Peace) an MCC partner organization in Nogales, Mexico, who grew up along the border.

In addition to the high-profile flows of undocumented migrants and illegal drugs going north, and illegal arms, remittances, and deportees going south, there are other smaller-scale economic exchanges taking place on a daily basis.

“American visas are highly coveted, not only by people who want to go to work in the US, but also by people who want to shop there,” according to Jeanette. “A gallon of milk costs $1.58 in Nogales, Arizona, compared to $5.20 on the Mexican side. Other items like potatoes and beans are also cheaper on the US side because of American government food subsidies.” Most people have a friend or relative with a visa who can go across to buy groceries for them.

On the other hand, Americans cross into Mexico for cheaper dental and medical care, perscription drugs, and real vanilla extract. Some retirement villages in Arizona have weekly bus transportation so that retired people can come to Mexico to have their hair and nails done cheaply.

Nogales 1936 – no wall

The present wall was built in the mid-1990s out of sheets of recycled metal: former helicopter-landing pads discarded by the US army after use in the Persian Gulf and Vietnam wars.

Rising up 12 to 15 feet—miniature compared to the new wall which will be up to 30 feet high—  the old ugly, rusted multi-coloured barrier had one advantage – it was flat and big – perfect for artist expression.  Several well-known murals have been painted on the wall and there are hundreds of crosses attached to the wall. Some of these have been saved in the process of demolition.

Border Mural with children’s faces

The children of HEPAC participated in the creation of one of these murals. An artist took photos of the faces of the children to create a collage utilizing a computer program  of feet walking.

Mexicans, always resourceful people, have also been close at hand during the dismantling of the old wall to get the old sheets of metal and either resell them or use them in their own house construction. “Apparently people are reselling the metal sheets for as much as 20-60,000 pesos [about $2000 to $6000],” says Jeanette.

A Latin American folk-song entitled “Punto y Raya” comes to mind when thinking about the wall.

Punto y Raya

By Anibal Nazoa & Juan Carlos Nunez

Between your people and my people,  there is a point and a line,

The line says “no crossing,”   the point says “road closed.”

This is how it is between peoples: dash and dot, dot and dash.

With so many dots and dashes, the map is like a telegram.

Walking in the world, you see rivers and mountains

jungles and deserts, but no dots or dashes.

Because these things do not exist, but rather, were drawn

so that my hunger and your hunger are always kept separated.

Additional Links

There are many songs about the border – this one is by Ricardo Arjona, a Guatemalan singer-songwriter, and a Tex-Mex band,  Intocables:

For a weird modern version of border music, listen to the sound of the old metal wall vibrating at Security Camera 36 along the borderwall:

Original Lyrics in Spanish:

Punto y Raya (Anibal Nazoa/Juan Carlos Núñez)

Entre tu pueblo y mi pueblo / hay un punto y una raya /

la raya dice no hay paso / el punto vía cerrada.
Y así entre todos los pueblos / raya y punto, punto y raya.

/ Con tantas rayas y puntos / el mapa es un telegrama.
Caminando por el mundo / se ven ríos y montañas /

se ven selvas y desiertos / pero ni puntos ni rayas.
Porque esas cosas no existen / sino que fueron trazadas /

para que mi hambre y la tuya / estén siempre separadas.

picture of woman at wall:

picture of mural:

This entry was posted in By country, Mexico, Migration. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to New Border Wall in Nogales: Metal, Murals, & Music

  1. Alexis says:

    Wow, those song lyrics are so poignant!

  2. Pingback: “New” Border Wall in Nogales | Ethnic Communities

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